Lobato performs in tough conditions
25 March 2014

Movistar Team: The Power of Champions (I) / Milano-Sanremo

   in collaboration with…    The riders of the Movistar Team are champions of cycling. We, the fans and spectators, can hardly imagine how hard they ride to complete, or even win, a UCI World Tour race. In collaboration with power2max, the power meter of Movistar Team, we are proud to introduce “Movistar Team: The […]

  in collaboration with…  

The riders of the Movistar Team are champions of cycling. We, the fans and spectators, can hardly imagine how hard they ride to complete, or even win, a UCI World Tour race. In collaboration with power2max, the power meter of Movistar Team, we are proud to introduce “Movistar Team: The Power of Champions”.

Thanks to our power2max Type S power meters and O-Synce navi2coach computers every kilometer ridden, every pedal stroke, every attack, every victory and every heart break gets recorded in detail and analysed by the coaching staff and riders. Now we are sharing some of the insights with you: we are working with renowned experts to bring you up close analyses to show you what is happening in the races we love.

In the first edition of “The Power of Champions” Australian cycling and triathlon coach Alan Couzens analyses Juanjo Lobato’s amazing 4th place at this year’s cold and wet Classicissima: Milan San Remo 2014.

Milano-Sanremo: Juanjo Lobato performs in tough conditions

By Alan Couzens, MSc (Sports Science)

At almost 300 kilometers, Milan San-Remo is the ultimate early season test of just how strong and enduring riders are at this time of the year!

Even at the high speeds in the professional peloton, which are often above 50km/h, the duration of Milan San Remo is a huge challenge in endurance and in smart race tactics. With the terrible cold and rain we saw this year the challenge becomes even bigger!

Phase 1: The early parts of Milano-Sanremo – “The long ‘warm up’ that got riders cold”

This year’s edition of Milan-San Remo began under cool and foreboding skies and, sure enough, as the riders’ heart rates climbed, the temperatures dropped. For a unique ‘in the peloton’ perspective of how the day played out, we turn to the power2max power file of Juanjo Lobato, who posted a break-through 4th place.

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As the race rolls southward from Milan, we see that the pace is still steady and ‘civilized’. Being professional cyclists, the athletes begin with a clear understanding of how the day will play out and that there is little point in going for early heroics – the day is just too long for that.

Juanjo begins his long day within the shelter of the peloton for 2 hours at 154 watts (209 watts “normalized”, taking into account changes in pace and hard efforts). This is quite an easy pace for him, only about half his “threshold power” – the highest power he could hold for one hour. In fact, you will have seen riders chat in the early parts of the race and the peloton still densely packed. During this time, Juanjo was able to coast about 15% of the time, saving precious energy for later.

When you are riding fast, but without too much effort, in cold and wet conditions for a long time it’s tough to stay warm, even wearing the best clothing. As we see later it came back to bite some of the riders as the race got very fast towards the end.

“Bringing back the breakaway”

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As the riders approached the Turchino pass they were greeted with rain and then hail when conditions turned worse and worse. The heroic early six-man break was still some way up the road. Catching the break-away became important and Cannondale did a lot of the chasing for Sagan, who was one of the top favorites.

You can see this in the higher speed and power in the chart above. For the final 10km of the Turchino Juanjo rode at a normalized power of 270W, which is a more serious pace for him, but still well below his “red zone”. As the peloton got more anxious, this pressure would be applied for the next 150km of racing!

Despite the strong pace, the conditions were making the chase especially challenging on this long, cold, downhill course. Some riders were noticeably shivering on their bikes. Despite the continued tempo riding the break still had 4 minutes as the peloton crested the Capo Berta, with about 40k to go.

The key moment of the race: “don’t get dropped on the last 2 climbs”

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The unique challenge of Milano-Sanremo comes in the final 2 ‘bumps’, the Cipressa and the Poggio. A rider hoping to place must have the legs to stay with the leaders on these short and savage climbs after 6 hours in the saddle and after having consumed 5,000 calories in energy – as much as a normal person in two entire days.

After pushing up the 7% grades of the Cipressa and the Poggio the riders need to show world class descending skills not to get dropped on the downhill, either. Juanjo’s file shows just how hard this segment of the race is. After 260km, he had to ride almost as hard as in a time trial, just to stay with the leaders. Juanjo put out 360 watts of normalized power for the last 50 minutes, almost double the power of the first hours of the race.

In the last descent he hit over 70 km/h, breaking down to 12kmh for the tight and slippery hair-pins. It shows that to be a great racer it’s not just enough to be strong up the mountain, but you also need to be fast down the mountain without crashing!

“All for the chance to sprint against the best in the world”

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The last 15 minutes of the race were frantic. Juanjo was riding well in the red, with a normalized power close to 400 watts. His lactate was rising, making the muscles ache, but the hardest was still to come – a sprint against the best in the world! As he fought for position Juanjo put out 1150w after 15 minutes in the red and an hour almost full gas – that’s the epic challenge that is Milan-San Remo! The reward for his efforts was an excellent 4th place, behind Swift and in front of Cavendish!

The combination of its extreme length, tough conditions, and selective few kilometers makes Milano-Sanremo a very tough one to predict. In this year, for instance, the challenges seems to have taken a toll on Cavendish and Sagan, who both didn’t unleash the sprint people expect from them. Greipel, another favorite, was dropped just that little bit too far behind on the last climb to be well positioned in the final sprint. The level of well-roundedness shown by Juanjo in his 4th place finish shows just how smart and hard rode!

Stay tuned as we bring you more in-depth race analysis from our riders in the coming months.